Career Advice

Tips for having Difficult Conversations…Remotely

Leanne Lazarus Posted by Leanne
min read
Yogendra Singh A Zgse Xu Iml0 Unsplash

With the world of business always evolving it is inevitable that there will be times or situations that arise where a difficult conversation will be required; whether it be covering off productivity (or lack of), results, behaviour or constructive feedback.

Prior to the pandemic, it was easier to raise these issues with an employee as most people were all in the office together. Now with a lot of people working from home, it can become more challenging. If you are planning to have a sensitive conversation with a member of staff, consider a video call rather than a phone call.

Here are a few tips for having remote discussions with your employees:


Consider their environment! Some people are working in a shared space at home with their family or flat mate, or they may be based at a coffee shop, as they just don’t have the space at home to work efficiently.  So, before engaging your employee in a difficult conversation remotely, alert them in advance that you need to have a confidential meeting with them and ask them to ensure they are able to have a discussion.  And, if you have employees working from a different time zone, consider the time that works best for both parties when scheduling the remote meeting.


Start the meeting by letting the employee know that this is a discussion and encourage them to engage, ask questions, share concerns and thoughts both during the meeting or afterwards.  Some people need a little time to process the information before the are ready to discuss; but leaving this door open, you foster a strong working relationship.


Technology is an essential resource, but it can also create a disconnection between you and your workers if you are not careful. When having difficult virtual discussions with your employees, you cannot afford to ignore the human element of the person or individuals behind the screen. Remember that your workers may have a hard time coming to terms with the news, especially if it is not what they expect.  As such, you should remain professional and empathetic as you engage your employees in serious discussions during a virtual meeting.


You cannot conclude a remote discussion on sensitive matters with your employees without explaining what you need from them. The recommendations you give after difficult virtual discussions with your workers will dictate the actions they take going forward. That means that you should set clear expectations, mutually agreed goals / objectives and give them a defined deadline to work towards.  And again, let them know that you are available should they have questions or concerns!

Conclusion: Having difficult discussions with your remote workers is tough, but also inevitable to some extent. Note that the way you approach such conversations will have a direct impact on your company operations. For that reason, ensure you listen attentively, be honest, and offer solutions as you engage your remote employees in sensitive discussions.